The Indiana University Cinema is dark for the summer, but other film outlets exist on the campus and so, Friday night, I paid a visit to the Indiana Memorial Union and a special screening of KONG:  SKULL ISLAND.  Long story short, it is a good movie, action/adventure more than science fiction/horror, but it isn’t really a remake of the original KING KONG, nor does it pretend to be.  Therein lies its power, it is its own movie, yet using the major tropes of the original – just in its own way.  It takes place in the early 1970s, the Vietnam war just ended, a perpetually fog-enshrouded island just discovered through satellite photos, and, hey, let’s give it an exploration!  The photography of the movie though is more reminiscent of APOCALYPSE NOW, very striking for those who remember it, and it even has an ultimately antagonistic Colonel Kurtz character, this one in charge of a helicopter squadron to ferry the explorers in and who, losing too many of his men to Kong, not-unreasonably wishes to bring the big lug down.

And Kong is big, with biplanes replaced by helicopters and that fight practically the opening round.  So the survivors are on the ground now, meeting other monsters plus local natives, and with the latter a World War II Navy pilot shot down some 28 years before.  Yes, it’s a bit corny, but KONG:  SKULL ISLAND is not ashamed to have fun with itself, and anyway now he can act as a guide, to get everyone to their pickup point where the ship that brought them and the ‘copters in will expect to meet them just three days later.  For details, the Amazon site has plenty of good reviews, most of them quite favorable, which I recommend to those interested.

But, some of the Amazon reviews notwithstanding, the King does get sweet on the Ann Darrow (that is to say, Fay Wray) character, here a photographer fresh away from the fighting in Vietnam herself.  But only a little — no climbs up skyscrapers this time out (and the “biplanes” dispatched before they even meet, though “Ann” does climb a very high rock), and Kong, no fool, knows when to let impossible loves go.  The climax, rather — the third trope from the original, displaced — is the one-time fight between Kong and the T-Rex, here a giant lizard that lives with its fellows beneath the ground (there are intimations of Hollow Earth Theory — JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH anybody?) and Kong, in fact, is the one who protects the natives from these far nastier beasties.

The anti-“political correctness” crowd may not like this, the dog whistles tend more lefty than righty, but KONG:  SKULL ISLAND isn’t a political film either, nor should it be looked at that way.  No, Kong isn’t even registered to vote; all he wants is a chance to beat on his chest in peace and another outing on the Big Screen which, even if not his original 1933 triumph, is still a lot of fun to watch.

Then, back to the writing business, about four hours after yesterday’s post, Heidi Angell’s review popped up on Amazon. This the third of the three presumably sent there, but perhaps that’s the charm and others will follow.  In the meantime though, while the Goodreads link I gave will connect to both Heidi’s and Christine Rains’s, for the second review from C.P. Dunphey on GEHENNA POST (to give all equal time) press here.  (And one thing more, to all, while thinking of Amazon let us not forget rival Barnes & Noble.  Heidi’s review is there as well — perhaps others will join it here?)

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